The Five Channels of Effective Communication
Your clients trust you to provide solutions based on your expertise, but how do you know that the solutions they’ve requested are what they actually need? How can you make sure your employees fully understand and are able to follow through on the project requirements? And how can you effectively navigate the increasingly complex world of technology to ensure that you provide your clients with the best possible service?
The answer is communication. For a business to be successful, it is essential that effective communication take place among all stakeholders—including clients, employees, technology providers, owners/stockholders, and the community.
1. Clients. Many clients will know more about the project requirements than you, but others will know little to nothing about why a particular service or deliverable is needed. Successfully meeting the client’s needs requires us as professionals to correctly identify those needs—a challenge that is made even more difficult in an age when many work orders or requests for proposals are submitted by emails and phone calls. In our office, the professional surveyors (project managers) are responsible for most client requests. However, the project manager almost always discusses the potential project with the other surveyor and surveyors in training (SITs). This grants the opportunity for the SIT to learn the proposal process, and it also allows the project to be examined from different perspectives. It’s amazing the questions that a second or third perspective yields! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been able to eliminate potential problems because a second set of eyes said,” I don’t believe that is what the client is asking,” or “Maybe they really need to do this.” At this point, the original surveyor can go back to the client armed with the right questions.
2. Employees. A surveying business is only as good as its weakest employee. Unless you do all your own drafting and field work, you will have to rely on information gathered in the field and prepared in the office by others. Therefore, it is essential that the client’s needs be conveyed in a specific and accurately written scope. This document will protect both the surveyor and the client by giving direction to the project team. The employees must understand the project requirements and the methodologies by which those requirements will be met. It is the project manager’s responsibility to communicate the correct methodologies for completing each project phase to the employees working on that phase and to continue communication throughout the project. If situations change or problems occur, constant communication will allow adjustments to be made in real time so you can complete the project on schedule.
3. Technology Providers. Communication with technology providers is often overlooked, but knowing who to contact when you need something and having a relationship already in place is vital. The ability to have an important piece of equipment or software available the same or next day can mean the difference between being on time or late with your deliverables. Additionally, technology providers can help you discern the best solution to your problem or need. A quality provider can be the research and development department that most surveying firms can’t afford. Although many surveyors are quick to communicate when technology fails or is inefficient, we should be equally willing to share when new technology works correctly. Effective two-way communication will forge a strong relationship between you and your technology provider and will be a win/win situation for both of you.
4. Owners/Stockholders. Owners and stockholders play a strategic role in the success of the business. They must be able to communicate their vision while remaining approachable so that employees can convey their needs for personnel, equipment, software and other resources. Additionally, a company’s leaders should communicate that decisions to invest in resources are based on sound business principals and not because it’s the latest technology or a cool gadget. Investments must bring a return.
5. Community. As business owners and decision makers, we need to be able to successfully communicate the value of our services to our local communities. It is our responsibility to ensure that our services are not viewed as a “commodity.” If the community does not see the worth in surveying, then they will not be willing to pay the costs associated with quality surveying practices. The benefits of successfully communicating with your community will be twofold: The overall perception of the profession will improve, and your business will prosper.
Let’s face it: Most surveyors chose surveying because we are good at math and science, not because we are great communicators. But communication is an essential part of business and is therefore a skill that we must master if we are to be successful.
The next time you’re faced with a question about a client’s needs or you aren’t certain that an employee knows what to do on a project, take a step back and see it as an opportunity to work on your communication skills. It’s much easier and less expensive to eliminate problems before they occur than to have to go back and try to fix them after the fact. By effectively communicating through all five channels, our businesses will benefit, and our relationships with the people around us will improve.